Let#039;s get Wal-Smart

by Beacon Staff • October 4, 2006

The toilets have been heralding anti-Wal-Mart proclamations: the decree "Give Wal-Mart Employees a Break" alongside an unhappy Wal-Mart logo.,If you are a female who has used the restroom on the second-floor lobby of the Little Building, you may have noticed the political sentiment of the stalls.

The toilets have been heralding anti-Wal-Mart proclamations: the decree "Give Wal-Mart Employees a Break" alongside an unhappy Wal-Mart logo.

Obvious from its wear-and-tear, there have been attempts to remove the sticker, yet it holds fast and remains a permanent fixture at Emerson College.

And why not? Wal-Mart is a terrible corporation, right? It is too big and its associates don't earn enough money. In all, it's a greedy, power-hungry embodiment of evil capitalism.

A priest in Chicago even called Wal-Mart positions "slave jobs," according to The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think-tank, which notes that Wal-Mart recently opened a store in Oakland, Calif. and more than 11,000 people applied for just 400 openings.

But let's look past the hyperbole. True, Wal-Mart does not have a spotless record. But can such a wildly successful company, with thousands of people lining up to work and millions of loyal shoppers, be completely evil?

The statistic that Wal-Mart is the number-one employer in the United States usually does not come as a surprise to people and certainly does not sway many anti-Wal-Mart followers. Those "slave jobs" may not pay top dollar (the average Wal-Mart Associate is paid $9.68 hourly), but the low-skill-level position has proven to be a stepping stone, rather than a permanent career.

Mark Gunther, Fortune Magazine's senior writer, reveals that "more than three-fourths of store management started in hourly positions." Gunther also reports that in the past three years, the big-box store has created more than 240,000 new jobs in the United States.

Regarding to employee treatment, the company's record is far from perfect. In 2001, a class-action lawsuit led to much controversy over Wal-Mart's employment methods regarding gender discrimination.

Yet according to CNNmoney.com, beginning in 2005, Wal-Mart has, "unlike most major corporations," released its data on employment of women and minorities.

The intense scrutiny that the media and the American people constantly impart over big business forces corporate America to be on its best behavior.

Much like our own government, big business is not honest, yet the evolution of a corporation through public criticism creates mutual gain. It is a simple matter of economics; businesses need public support and therefore must adjust to consumers' criticisms and appease those who target them.

One example of Wal-Mart promoting a mutually beneficial relationship with society was its assistance during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Ironically, Wal-Mart provided more efficient assistance to hurricane victims than FEMA and the governmental bodies charged with protecting its citizens.

Wal-Mart must listen to society in order to survive economically. In fact, according to Fortune Magazine, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott has even launched an environmentalist campaign, reducing solid wastes from US stores by 25 percent within the next three years and eliminating 30 percent of the energy used in stores.

Along with these efforts, Gunther reports, "Wal-Mart has become the biggest seller of organic milk and the biggest buyer of organic cotton in the world . The bigger idea here is that the poor and middle-income Americans are every bit as interested in buying green products as are the well-to-do."

This month, Wal-Mart proved itself again to the public by listening to the demands for lower-priced medication and enacting its new generic drug program. According to The New York Times, Wal-Mart is offering generic prescriptions for as low as $4, which "could force rival pharmacies to do the same."

As always, Wal-Mart is keeping the market, including the business of medicine, on its toes by creating strong competition.

The company has and will continue to be influenced by the productive force of public opinion.

Stickers in stalls are certainly not the most efficient way to communicate dissatisfaction to a corporation and reflect a childlike method of solving problems.

Before jumping on the toilet-stall-posting bandwagon of extremist anti-Wal-Mart sentiment, first consider that the storemay be offering some measure of value to millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of employees.

It is not evil, nor is it is the moral archetype of corporate America. Like most topics, this is one that requires looking between the confines of black and white. In a sane, civil society, these issues should be elevated above bathroom politics.